By Marie van Rensburg
Whether it's sitting down to watch a movie or proclaiming the marriage vows, there’s a certain underlying belief that makes us fear commitment: "I can’t commit because I can’t guarantee my happiness, and I don’t want to risk experiencing misfortune, dissatisfaction or regret". The question I would pose is this: is that really true?
It was a grey and chilly Saturday afternoon. I had nothing planned - no unfinished work-tasks, no social engagements, not even any personal, mandatory tasks like laundry to complete. The weekend was budding with opportunity before me. My ears perked up at the conviction in my younger sister’s voice: “I’m watching a movie, come now if you want to join”. I jumped at the prospect of having something to do.
After 45 minutes of internet-surfing, trailer-watching and conflict-resolving, a decision was finally reached. But just as my sister’s finger came down to press ‘play’, I found myself reluctant to take a seat and settle in. I found myself biting my nail, now searching around the room for a distraction. “Well, are you watching or not?” my sister enquired. “Umm...yeah maybe, just, ahh, hold on a second”. Before you know it I was out of the room, suddenly convinced that there was, in fact, something else I had to do. Of course - there wasn’t. My day was as vacant as it was when it began.
My sudden flight-from-the-movie got me thinking. Even with nothing else to fill my time, why did I feel so uneasy about locking myself in? Eventually I got there: manifest in this mundane, everyday experience, was the fear of commitment.
I know that this concept isn’t foreign to us. In fact, we see this everywhere in our culture: men and women who spend years toying with each other, reluctant to ‘tie-the-knot’, university students endlessly bouncing between degrees, dating-apps that provide us with endless choice, in case we miss out on someone better. We have an instinctive desire for safety that is both healthy and important, but when we get stuck believing that nothing is worth the risk unless it is proven to immediately and consistently satisfy that desire, it becomes a prison.
As human beings, however, there’s a reason we’re inspired by the elderly couple who’ve been married for 50 years, by the athlete who doesn’t give up on his goal, by the parent who doesn’t stop searching for their lost child. There’s a reason we respond with admiration for those who endure and sacrifice in honour of a commitment they’ve made - it's because we were made for the same greatness! We respect commitment because it requires fortitude, endurance and sacrifice.
Commitment produces the ingredients for real love - the very thing we are made for. So, when we live in the fear of commitment, we train ourselves to disdain the virtues necessary for the fulfilment of our purpose as people created for love. That’s a pretty big deal.
So, why do we find commitment so hard? Whether it's sitting down to watch a movie or proclaiming the marriage vows, there’s a certain underlying belief that makes us fear commitment: "I can’t commit because I can’t guarantee my happiness, and I don’t want to risk experiencing misfortune, dissatisfaction or regret".
The question I would pose is this: is that really true? Is it really true that, as human beings, we are entirely incapable of managing ourselves through misfortune - should it even occur? Is it true that our life is meaningless without perpetual happiness experienced on this earth? Is it true that temporary misfortune injures us in an irrevocable and irredeemable way? Of course not! We were not made for comfort, we were made for greatness - that's where the answer lies.
The antidote to this fear of commitment, the antidote to the questions “but what if it all goes wrong?”, “what if this is a mistake?”, is trust. We need to trust that we are capable of navigating hardship and misfortune, should it ever arise from a choice we’ve made. On that chilly, Saturday morning, I needed to be able to trust that if I didn’t enjoy the movie I’d committed to, that I was capable of handling the sting of regret.
Here’s where we can start:
“Be faithful in small things, because in them your strength lies” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta). When we practice commitment in the small things, we rebuild the trust needed to venture into all decision-making with the confidence to commit. When we practice commitment in the small things, we generate a history of evidence that supports the truth that we are, indeed, capable of the endurance, sacrifice and courage needed for commitment.
Our fear of commitment hinders us from fulfilling our purpose, to love and be loved, by training us to resent the virtues - endurance, sacrifice, fortitude - necessary for it.
Don’t let your fear of commitment go unchallenged any longer.
Let’s go. Let’s start now, with a commitment to commitment.
Marie is a Bachelor of Liberal Arts graduate from Campion College Australia, serving on her second year of mission with The Culture Project. As a young woman, she has seen and experienced the real need for young people to be affirmed in their inherent dignity and value and the incredible freedom that a life of virtue and chastity offers. Marie is passionate about rebuilding our culture so that future generations are full of individuals driven by the desire to pursue and preserve truth in every facet of life.